The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has extended the face mask requirement that was set to expire in mid-May for several more months, citing the need for travelers to continue minimizing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Under the TSA’s face mask requirement, travelers over the age of two will be required to wear face masks at airports, on board airplanes, on over-the-road buses, commuter buses and rail systems, the department announced Friday afternoon.
“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” Darby LaJoye, a senior TSA official, said in a statement. “Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic. We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.”
The TSA also posted a video, featuring a woman and two elementary-school-aged children, showing how to walk through an airport while wearing a face mask — something the federal transportation agency described as for “everyone’s benefit.”
VIDEO: We want your travels to be as safe as possible. Continue wearing your face mask through the #TSA screening process. It’s a requirement in place for everyone’s benefit. Learn more on face masks: https://t.co/y0D4s1jiHu pic.twitter.com/WwsLniG0jz
— TSA (@TSA) April 30, 2021
The department’s decision comes as the United States has been vaccinating millions of people against COVID-19 every day, and has been experiencing the lowest number of recorded COVID-19 fatalities since October 2020. According to Reuters, 4,972 people died of COVID-19 in the United States in the week ending on April 25 (and the last time fewer than 5,000 people died of COVID-19 in the U.S. in a week was October 2020).
The initial mask mandate was put in place at the beginning of February. Earlier this month, the CDC updated its guidance for mask-wearing, saying that fully vaccinated people could forgo masks when outside with others. From the CDC:
- gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.
- gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks or staying 6 feet apart, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- gather or conduct activities outdoors without wearing a mask except in certain crowded settings and venues.
President Joe Biden continues to wear his mask outdoors anyway — even though he is fully vaccinated and has been for months — and has said he does so because he is likely to interact with people. However, he has also described mask-wearing as a sort of “patriotic” duty.
“It’s a small precaution to take that has a profound impact. It’s a patriotic responsibility for God’s sake,” Biden said during an interview with TODAY. “It’s making sure that your wife, your children, — if in fact they haven’t been vaccinated — making sure that they’re not going to get sick.”